Posts filed under Adventures

Two Fantastic Days in Paso Robles Wine Country

This past weekend, we traveled with our friends Dave and Sarah to the Paso Robles Wine Country. It turned out to be two fantastic days of great food, great company, and outstanding wine.

Our first impression of Paso Robles came in 2011 and we liked it so much we returned again on our 2013 California wine trip. Dave and Sarah made their first trip to Paso in 2013 and really enjoyed it too. It’s always fun to share a bottle with them, so we decided to plan a return trip to Paso Robles together.  

Accommodations were at La Bellaserra Hotel & Suites on the strength of two previous visits. They offer a nice level of luxury at decent prices that make this hotel a perfect home base for a Paso Robles wine adventure.

Paso Robles wine is really coming along. They aren’t up to par with Napa or Sonoma in our opinion, but they’re still outstanding in their own right. Here are some of our favorites along with our dining choices.

 

Day 1

No trip to Paso Robles would be complete without a visit to Herman Story Wines. They’re one of our favorite wineries and one of only two wine clubs we belong to. Winemaker Russell P. From gave us a sneak preview of his spring releases and let us taste barrel samples of the 2012 On the Road Grenache, 2012 JS Syrah, and 2012 Nuts and Bolts Syrah. All three of these wines really wowed us with their full-bodied complexity and velvety texture. 

Enjoying wine at Herman Story

Another fun stop on Day 1 was Paso Underground. It’s a collective tasting room right on the downtown square comprised of four wineries: Aaron, Clos Selene, Edmond August, and Turtle Rock Vineyards.  

We tasted at both Aaron and Clos Selene and were impressed with both. One of the fun aspects of tasting here was winemakers Aaron Jackson (Aaron) and Guillaume Fabre (Clos Selene) were pouring their wines. They were both passionate, interesting, and took time to answer our endless questions. And, both wineries featured outstanding wine.

Dinner that night was at McPhee’s Grill in neighboring Templeton. It had the vibe of an old school steakhouse with friendly service and outstanding food. We all thoroughly enjoyed our meals, which were accompanied by 2011 Herman Story Nuts & Bolts Syrah. 

 

Day 2

We spent most of the day touring wineries on the west side of the wine region. Some of our favorites included Sextant Wines, Tables Creek Vineyard, and Kenneth Volk Vineyards. You’ll likely see reviews of wine from all three wineries in the coming months since we purchased a few bottles from each. 

Lunch was at Second Press Wine Bar & Eatery, a new restaurant on Paso’s downtown square. We all enjoyed our meals while sitting in the bar and watching the Patriots play the Broncos in the AFC Championship game.

Dinner was at Artisan, a repeat from our last trip to Paso Robles. It’s also on the downtown square and features a tasty bistro menu. I enjoyed a lamb cassoulet which was a real treat. We shared a bottle of 2010 Kenneth Volk Enz Vineyard Zinfandel with our meal.

It took us five hours flat to get to Paso Robles from San Diego. I’m sure we’ll be back before too long.

Posted on January 20, 2014 and filed under Adventures.

How to make a wine advent calendar

We recently posted a picture of a wine advent calendar on the Share the Bottle Facebook page. It seemed like such a cool idea that we decided to make one too.

Here are step-by-step instructions for making your own wine advent calendar. 

 

Step 1: Assemble the following materials

  • 1 spool of festive ribbon
  • Scissors
  • Red sharpie or marker
  • Construction paper
  • Hole punch
  • 25 bottles of wine
  • 1 mother-in-law

 

Step 2: Ask your Mother-in-Law if she'd like to work on a project

Mother-in-laws love to help decorate your home. Give her the materials you've assembled and show her the picture below. She'll know what to do.

 

Step 3: Let your mother-in-law know she's appreciated

Be sure to show your appreciation for her efforts. My mother-in-law likes beer. One tip -- it's a good idea to reward your mother-in-law after the advent calendar is finished.

Sharing beer with my awesome mother-in-law, Mabeth

Happy Holidays!!

Posted on December 1, 2013 and filed under Adventures.

First impressions of the Ramona Valley wine region

Sally and I were joined by our friends Sarah and Dave last Sunday as we took our first wine tasting excursion to the Ramona Valley wine region. While you shouldn’t cancel your Napa plans just yet, Ramona Valley can be a fun place to spend a day wine tasting if you live in or near San Diego County.

Our general impression was this is a very young wine region. Many of the wines we tasted were produced from vineyards that have yielded grapes for only a few years. The winemakers themselves typically didn’t have many vintages under their belts, but they were eager to learn and experiment. Give this region some time and we might see some great wine.

 

 

We met a few interesting characters along the way.

Victor Edwards was pouring wine on the Edwards Vineyard and Cellars wine patio. He and his wife, Beth, make the wine and run the winery with the help of their sons. Their story seems like that of so many people who love wine, plant a few vines in their yard, and one day find themselves running a winery.

Their wines are made in very small lots. Edwards only produced 47 cases each of the 2008 Syrah and 2008 Whale Mountain Red (50% Syrah and 50% Petit Sirah), their only current releases still available. 

The winery didn’t have much of a tasting venue, which is usually a good sign. They had a few tables and chairs, a wine bar, and a small shack where they stored wine and supplies. A couple of dogs welcomed visitors as they arrived. Everything was nice and casual.

Kim Nguyen-Hargett was our host at Mahogany Mountain Vineyard and Winery. She and her husband own the winery, which is situated on 43 acres on Mahogany Ranch Road.

Kim was pouring two vintages of their Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Mourvedre when we visited. She helped us have a bit of fun by pouring each vintage in a glass without telling us which was which. We all would taste the wine and try to guess the vintage based on the tasting notes on their wine list. Doing side-by side tastings is always a lot of fun and a great way to learn a little more about wine.

Our last stop of the day was Kohill Winery. Mike Kopp, the owner and winemaker, was on hand to pour us some wine when we arrived. We were his only guests so we kept talking and Mike kept pouring. We got to barrel taste several wines and he even opened a couple of bottles of unreleased wine for us to try.

Kohill’s current releases were good, but the stuff from the barrel has some real promise. I’m sure we’ll be back for his next vintage.

Barrel tasting with Kohill winemaker Mike Kopp.

Posted on November 19, 2013 and filed under Adventures, Tasting Experiences.

Felino Malbec by Vina Cobos

sunset from our table at Merriman'sWe recently shared with you how wine made our Hawaiian vacation better by keeping “Vegas” and the cabana boy away, and saving us money.  Early in our trip we made a stop at the Wine Shop and loaded up on great wines to bring with us to dinner, which local corkage laws allows for you to do.  As California also has great corkage laws, we knew that paying retail, even with a corkage fee, was always a better deal than restaurant mark-ups.  The Wine Shop had an added bonus – partnerships with many great local spots that waived corkage fee for wine purchased at their store.  Awesome, as this fee ranged from $15-20. 

One of the restaurants on the list was Merriman’s Fish House, located in Poipu at The Shops of Kukui’ula.  Wow.  This place was awesome.  Great food, and atmosphere – not something you regularly find both of when dining on the islands.  The restaurant is set in an old Hawaii plantation house, with open windows looking out to the ocean, providing an excellent backdrop for sunset.  This is a “farm to table” restaurant, boasting that 90% of their products are locally grown or caught, using only sustainable methods.  Their fish selections actually list the boat in which it was caught.

While the wine list was quite extensive, and impressive (over 1,000 bottles in their cellar), we opted to bring with us a 2012 Felino Malbec, from Mendoza.  It was a perfect pairing to our very fresh and delicious meals. It is a blend of 93% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Merlot.  We found the nose to be of herbs (like thyme) and a little white pepper.  The palate was full of dark berries, tannin finish with a little heat.  It was a great food wine, and paired well with our meals.

Merriman’s has the 2011 Felino Malbec on the menu for $56.  We purchased the 2012 for $13.95, and no corkage fee ~ Thank you Wine Shop! 

Where to find:

San Diego Wine Company - $15.95

Total Wine - $17.99

Specs - $16.62

Posted on September 22, 2013 and filed under Adventures, Under $20.

How wine made our Hawaiian vacation better

Sally and I have just returned from relaxing vacation on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. We took a break from many things including work, email, and even Facebook. One thing we didn’t leave behind was our love of wine. That never seems to take a break.

It also turns out that wine made our vacation a whole lot better. Not just in the way you think. It turns out there are many hidden benefits.

Wine saved us money

One of our first stops when we got into town was The Wine Shop in Koloa. It’s a very cool store run by Dan and Ellen O’Connell that provides a great selection of familiar wine at all price levels. Many things are much more expensive in Hawaii than they are on the mainland, but The Wine Shop’s prices aren’t much higher than we pay in our hometown of San Diego.

Hawaii’s corkage laws vary by county. In Kauai County, where we were staying, local laws allow you to bring your own wine to dinner. We all know that restaurant wine can be very expensive, so bringing your own bottle is almost always a better deal.

But wait, there’s more!

The Wine Shop has worked out a deal that gets many nearby restaurants to wave the corkage fee. This means you pay retail for your wine and get to drink it for free in the restaurant. That little deal saved us quite a bit of moolah!

Stay tuned as we profile our various purchases.

Wine kept the cabana boy away

Drinking fruity rum drinks is a time-honored tradition when you are lounging on a tropical island. Knowing we had a bottle of wine waiting for us at dinner actually encouraged us to keep the daytime drinking to a minimum. This meant the cabana boy wasn’t constantly swinging by to ply us with $14 Mai Tais.

I’d expect our audience is split 50/50 on whether keeping the cabana boy away is a good thing. For the 50 percent that doesn’t agree with me, just think about how many empty calories are in one rum drink.

Wine kept us away from Vegas

Okay, this is a longer one, so bear with me.

We took a sunset dinner cruise one night along Kauai’s beautiful Napali Coast. Much of this part of the island is accessible only by boat and it’s renowned for its remote beauty.

A woman caught our attention while we waiting to board the boat. She was loud, obnoxious, and already seemed to have a few drinks in her. At one point, she leaned over a toddler drinking juice and made some crack to the mom about the juice having alcohol in it. Stereotypes come from somewhere, so we weren’t surprised to learn she and her husband were from Las Vegas.

We started referring to her under our breath as Vegas. We also decided to avoid her at all costs.

Kauai's Napali Coast

Staying away from Vegas on the boat turned out to be fairly easy. We found several very cool people to sit next to at the back of the boat and Vegas made her way to the top deck so she could talk the Captain’s ear off. Everything was going fine until the crew started serving alcohol just before dinner.

We were given a choice of beer, wine, or “sneaky-Tikis,” which were tropical rum drinks that were so potent they snuck up on you. Most of our group of new friends had a couple of beers or one sneaky-Tiki and then switched to wine with dinner. It kept the conversation social and we even had a nice conversation about Oregon Pinot with a couple from just outside of Portland.

Vegas, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough sneaky-Tikis. Maybe the Captain dared her to beat the ship’s record. Maybe they are extra sneaky when you have a few less brain cells for the alcohol to conquer. Maybe that’s just how Vegas rolls. Whatever it was, the booze made Vegas even louder.  

One of our group got up after dinner to use the head. She returned with a horrified look on her face. Apparently, she had seen Vegas descending the ladder from the top deck. Vegas was holding up her dress so she wouldn’t trip which made it apparent that she wasn’t wearing any underwear.

Our new friend recounted the terrifying ordeal and said in a frightened voice, “I saw her Napali Coast.”

This encouraged a few more comments about Vegas since others had noticed her boorish behavior too. In fact, it turned out that the whole group of us had picked the back of the boat to deliberately avoid Vegas!

The point of this story is there’s no telling what would have happened if we had gotten soused on sneaky-Tikis rather than having a few social glasses of wine with the newly formed Vegas Avoidance Group.

A beautiful sunset from the back of the boat

Posted on September 9, 2013 and filed under Adventures.